ERS experts join call for rapid action on clean air in Europe

ERS experts join call for rapid action on clean air in Europe - article image

2 February, 2024

Health experts have warned policymakers and political leaders about the devastating impact of a delay in fully aligning the European Union (EU) Ambient Air Quality Directive (AAQD) with World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines.

In an International Journal of Public Health article, experts from ERS and other health groups call for immediate action on European air pollution. They warn that a 10-year delay in aligning the EU’s AAQD with WHO Air Quality Guidelines 2021 would result in more than 327,600 premature deaths across Europe.

A delay in full alignment will also widen the health inequality gap between Western and Eastern Europe, say experts including ERS Advocacy Council Chair Prof. Barbara Hoffmann and Environment and Health Committee Chair Prof. Zorana J. Andersen. They highlight that “using poverty as an excuse to fail to act is the opposite of what countries in Europe need”.

The urgent call comes as trilogue discussions between the EU Commission, Parliament and Council continue, with a deal to be reached soon regarding revisions to the EU’s AAQD.

A delay in full alignment of the AAQD with WHO air quality guidelines would also result in poorer health for millions of people, with research from Europe indicating a strong link between air pollution and millions of new cases of asthma, COPD, acute respiratory infections, lung cancer and other serious illnesses each year.

Prof. Zorana J. Andersen said: “Allowing additional delays in reaching new EU air quality standards, differentiated based on GDP, is completely unacceptable to the ERS community. A delay would widen existing inequalities in air pollution levels and health burden between East and West.

“Children and adults in Eastern European countries have already been breathing the most polluted air in Europe and suffering from related lung diseases, for far too long. We need fair, ambitious new EU air quality legislation that values the health of all Europeans equally.

“A new Air Quality Directive must provide clear vision and support to speed up, and not delay, much needed air pollution reductions in Eastern Europe, in order to improve health and wellbeing, and achieve clean air for all in Europe, as soon as possible.”

Read the full report.

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